MANILA – Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo said she considers the latest reduction in power rates as a classic example of the country’s economic gains flowing down to the people.
In a roundtable discussion Wednesday in Malacanang, the President said the people are finally harvesting the seeds of fiscal discipline and good governance that the government has planted.
“The cut in power rates is part of the great story of economic gains flowing down to the people.
This is a timely harvest on the seeds of fiscal discipline and good governance that we have planted in the field of optimism and hope,” she said in a statement.
The President pointed out that this is a clear and compelling reason for all Filipinos to stay the course and not be distracted “by the pullback of destructive politics.”
Housewife Cora Gloria, a mother of three, who was among those in the roundtable discussion, told the President that her power rate bill was lower this month (February) compared to last month.
“Itong huling perfect power adjustments, pag mababa ang langis at dolyar bumaba rin iyong tsini-charge, doon nagre-reflect na bumababa ang electric bill, so nararanasan talaga. Lalo na ngayon na itong Napocor ay binabawasan iyong tsini-charge sa Meralco,” the President explained.
The President told Gloria that through her village, she could seek micro-finance assistance for her to open up a small business.
Gloria, for her part, thanked the President for launching the “Pamilihang Bayan” and “Botika ng Bayan” where she could buy cheaper products and medicines.
Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Rodolfo Albano, Jr. said that the National Power Corporation (Napocor) power rate reduction by eight centavos per kilowatt-hour (kwh) will apply to the Feb. 26 to March 25, 2007 billing period. The reduction, he said, could go up by 18 centavos in the next 10 months.
Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said all payments made by Napocor for the importation of oil had been reduced due to the stronger peso.
Lotilla informed the President that the official contract price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in Singapore will be reduced by one percent by next month. Kerosene prices, he added, had also been reduced by 30 centavos two days ago.
Consumer and Oil Price Watch chairman Raul Concepcion said the power rate reduction would have significant effect on consumers but extended his appeal to the banks to consider lowering their rates, too.
The President said she is considering the establishment of a credit bureau because the micro-finance system requires no collateral and is becoming very attractive because of its lower interest rates.
She said that while her detractors continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel for old, worn out issues, her administration is concerned with the issue of a modern Philippines fighting for the people and lifting them from poverty.
“I call on all Filipinos to bury past complaints and join the bandwagon of the economy,” she said. “This is our only time to break free from the drag of past complaints and move forward. Let us not waste time but use it to grab every opportunity to advance, prevail over our conflicts and doubts and win the future.”
DAVAO DEL NORTE (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Feb) – Picketing banana workers complained Wednesday that security guards of the Marsman Estate Plantation allegedly harassed them in the town of Santo Tomas in Davao del Norte province.
The workers were demanding immediate release of their union benefits under the so-called Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and the remittance of their Social Security System and and Pag-ibig payments.
Domingo Deguma, president of Marsman Labor Association for National Democracy-National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno, said the security guards, about 10 of them, allegedly threatened them should they continue their picket in front of the Marsman office.
“We were about to assemble in front of the management building when chief security Jun Dumile came up to us and told us that there will be trouble if we will proceed with the protest,” he said.
Deguma said Marsman up to now have not released the workers’ Spouse and Children’s Christmas Bonuses supposed to be due December last year. Some of the workers were not able to avail of salary loans because the company allegedly failed to remit the workers’ SSS and Pag-ibig payments.
“The guards were already posted in front of the management office before we started the picket. As we were preparing the picket line, they approached us and ordered us to disperse.”
“We were merely exercising our right to redress of grievance…Instead of addressing our concerns, they sent out armed guards to intimidate and force us to endure their capitalist exploitation,” said Deguma, who is also a coordinator for the party list Anakpawis.
Editha Duterte, Anakpawis-Southern Mindanao spokesperson, explained: “Their fear of us mounting the picket stems out from the fact that for the past months, the workers have been successful in pressing for their economic rights though collective action.”
“The workers’ experience taught them that picketing and other concerted actions are their only resort to counter capitalist exploitation. That is the reason why these workers never tire and they become more resolute—of pushing for their legitimate demands,” she said in a statement to the Mindanao Examiner.
There were no immediate statements from either officials or head of security of the Marsman.
DAVAO CITY – THE KABATAAN PARTY LIST urged Manila Wednesday to assert the Supreme Court’s decisions on the nursing controversy, and to take highest consideration of the poor majority among nursing graduates in planned moves.
The Philippine government is set appeal to the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools’ (CGFNS) refusal to accept Filipino nurses who passed the June 2006 nursing examination.
“We believe that most of the 2006 nursing exam passers come from poor families who tried hard just to finish nursing and pass the exam in high hopes that such would guarantee them of better lives and retaking the exam is already an added burden to them,” Vice President for Mindanao of the Kabataan Party List, Karla Hyasmind Apat, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
Apat said the nursing graduates would only be forced to retake the exam in the context of not prolonging their agony over the controversy. She added they would rather spend, borrow perhaps, thousands of pesos just to work in countries were their profession is in demand, rather than wait in vain.
The group believes that the government should start asserting the Supreme Court’s decision to the United States who benefits most from the nursing graduates of the country.
“We stand with the majority of the Filipino nurses who are left with no choice but to succumb to the Philippine educational system’s flaws in order to have a better job and better life that this government could not provide to its own graduates,” Apat said.
Kabataan Party List said there is a dire need to push for the legislative agenda that will change the orientation of the Philippine Education system which currently serves the foreign needs.
“Our educational system right now is very colonial and does not serve the need of the country.
Our teachers and doctors are turning into nurses for the reason that this government can not compensate their needs and benefits and the government through the Department of Labor and Employment even tolerates this trend,” Apat said.
GABRIELA WOMEN’S PARTY LIST on Wednesday urged the Arroyo government to implement fully the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” or Republic Act No. 9208.
GABRIELA worries over the increasing rate of human trafficking in the country as reports show that there are already 500,000 women and 100,000 minors who have been victimized.
The group also expressed its appreciation for the recently launched Task Force Anti-Trafficking of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport although it believes this is not enough to ensure prevention of trafficking and rescue of the victims.
The women group commends the legislation of RA 9208, co-authored by Rep. Liza Maza of 12th Congress, for being the first law of the Republic of the Philippines that protects women and children from trafficking and which has clear provisions on services for the victims, “But unclear implementation has rendered it futile for almost four years now.”
“There is a big gap between this beautifully crafted law and its implementation,” according to Jeanette Laurel, Advocacy Staff of the Talikala Inc., a GWP network of non-government organizations that protect women and children from sex-trafficking.
Laurel said there are no appropriate facilities for the services for victims, such as livelihood and skills training, emergency shelter or appropriate housing, counseling and rehabilitation, which are stated in the law.
GWP also pointed out the need to educate the people about the said law but this must be done first in the government ranks because it has not yet been popularized even in the local government units.
“Government agencies have not concretized the services mandated by the law. In the city, these services are hard to access and even monitoring systems among barangays are definitely non-existent,” Laurel said.
“Definition of trafficking is still vague for the judiciary. It does not consider an act as trafficking when a victim is rescued in the airport for it has not been consummated yet,” Laurel said.
Most of the cases were downgraded to illegal recruitment disregarding the gravity of human trafficking, she added. “In February last year, we had rescued eight victims from trafficking; five of these cases were treated as illegal recruitment and three were dismissed,” she added.
Talikala Inc. reported that in Davao City, there were 40 victims of sex-trafficking for February to December 2006, youngest of them was 14 year-old, not including cases of other forms of trafficking documented in the city.
“These cases (40) were all unresolved leaving the victims vulnerable for re-trafficking because they remain unemployed and unable to access education,” Laurel said.
THE SUARA PARTY LIST expressed fear Wednesday over a possible escalation of more violence in the province of Sulu as skirmishes between the Abu Sayyaf Group and government troops are rapidly slipping out of hand.
This, as the involvement of members of the Moro National Liberation Front in the fighting is also dreaded as inevitable because government troopers are now hunting down members of the Abu Sayyaf in the areas considered as territory of the MNLF.
Zaynab Ampatuan, national deputy secretary general of Suara, said the operations against the Abu Sayyaf in an MNLF area is an open invitation for a confrontation.
“We think that government troops are teasing the MNLF to shoot at them. The situation in Sulu is very critical now knowing that the government and MNLF officials are still ironing the kinks of the final peace agreement they signed in 1996,” Ampatuan said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
“We hope that the MNLF will not be ensnared and drag themselves into a situation that will absolutely endanger the peace negotiations,” Ampatuan said.
The military, through Brig. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the joint special operations forces hunting down the Abu Sayyaf, said that they were able to receive information that the MNLF is coddling members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, however, said that he has advised Pabustan not to believe in the report as “somebody is trying to get the AFP to the MNLF and start a confrontation again.” At least 13 scout rangers were reportedly hurt while six soldiers were killed in the gun battle that already involved members of the MNLF.
This came after the scout rangers conducted a hot pursuit operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits who fled and allegedly sought refuge in MNLF camp in Jolo’s Sitio Marang, Barangay Buanza.
Ampatuan said they were able to receive reports that a number of civilian Moro families have left their homes again for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
“Evacuation seems to be a never ending affair of the Moro people as the government continues to advance its misplaced policies like the antiterrorism law which, in the end, only hurt the civilians more than their supposed targets,” Ampatuan said.
“We fear that civilians will again be the casualties of this recent clash as it did before. The fighting has to stop for the sake of the civilians—the children, the elderly and women,” Ampatuan added.
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Feb) – The party list Kilusang Mayo Uno assailed Wednesday the government’s failure to address the growing problems facing the Filipino nurses.
The U.S. Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) banned Filipino nurses who took the June 2006 licensure examination tainted with cheating and scandals that nearly damaged the integrity of nursing schools and review centers in the Philippines.
Government officials said they will appeal the decision of the CGFNS and a group of Filipino lawmakers are also going to the United States to meet with officials of the agency. Some nursing review centers were involved in the cheating, authorities said.
“The handling of the government on the nursing leakage mess remains to be absolving the criminals who orchestrated the leakage while putting extra burden on our already stressed-out nurses. We are yet to see people made accountable for their role in the test leakage,” said Elmer Labog, national chairman of the KMU’s Labor Center here.
The KMU fears that other countries may also ban Filipino nurses because of the CGFNS decision.
Labog said: “Unless justice is served and the culprits made to pay for their actions, the possibility of other countries banning our nurses is very possible. Other countries will always notice a shadow of doubt hovering over the nurses who took the June 2006 licensure examination and this will place unjust burden on them.” (Mindanao Examiner)
DAVAO CITY – The Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Mass) has started its own countdown for the full implementation of the ordinance banning aerial spraying.
The ordinance will take effect on March 22, the day when the whole world is celebrating World Water Day. The same day will be the start of the three-month phase-out period given to banana plantation companies to shift from aerial spraying to manual spraying. By June 22, no spray planes should fly over banana plantation in the city.
“The timing is just perfect with the celebration. We all know that one of the reasons why we pushed for the banning of aerial spraying in banana plantations is because we wanted the open bodies of water protected from the deadly drift of the chemicals,” said Dagohoy Magaway, spokesperson of Maas.
The group — composed of various non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations, academe, church and some individuals—also pushed for the banning because of the danger and destruction that the chemical drift causes to the health of the people and crops.
Magaway said their group, a wide coalition, is anticipating and watching the implementation of the ban as the day close by. “Yes we are excited but we are watchful. We are not letting our guards off until we will see no airplanes hovering over us, sprinkling all that are underneath with deadly chemicals,” Magaway said.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the ordinance Feb. 9, a move that signaled the end of the 30-year practice in banana plantation. The signing also came two years after the ordinance was lodged in the city council.
“We know that the banana plantation companies have been affected by the ban and we are expecting that they will still try to block the implementation. But we are here, with the same strength and passion, to stop whatever they desire,” Magaway said.
“Before the ordinance was signed into law, banana companies unleashed their most trusted lobby person—Agriculture Arthur Yap but it did not work. Whoever will be sent out to block the implementation, we are ready for that,” Magaway said. (Jeff Tupaz)
CLOTHESLINE SIGNAL By Juan Mercado
Kids’ school uniforms, flapping on clotheslines, don’t raise eyebrows. Except when they’re strung in ghettos of indigenous tribal people, like Atis in Sitio Bolabog on glitzy Boracay. “That’s something I didn’t see before,” emailed former World Health Organization’s Rabin Sarda.
“Those uniforms are indicators of hope,” says Dr Sarda, who shuttles between Miami and Boracay, yet wedges time to help the once-nomadic Atis. Those clotheslines say: “More Atis are now in school — and getting a chance to break out of penury.”
Progress inches forward despite relentless pressure, by tax-declaration waving claimants, to shove out Atis from what they say is home. The Catholic Church’s commission on indigenous peoples backs the Atis’ December 2001 claim for a certificate of ancestral domain title. And Senator Jamby Madrigal blasted those shoving Atis out with threats and P2,000 handouts and feet-dragging by government agencies.
“The beautiful white beaches can not disguise the disgusting reality of a concentration camp being built among Boracay’s tourist attractions,” she wrote. Daughters of Charity nuns, who live among the Atis, were “judiciously using a medicine fund provided by private citizens”, Dr Sarda noted.
They first use donated drugs, before drawing from the fund “More individuals and organizations contribute time and in kind,” including help to repair typhoon damaged homes. “Contributions to a feeding program, to tamp down malnutrition, have stabilized. An informal education program for youth is ongoing. In school year 2007/2008, two Atis will enter college with scholarships from self-effacing benefactors.”
A February bonus was a mass wedding for 18 couples. An upscale hotel even provided the banquet.”If we keep sprigs of hope in our hearts,” the Chinese say, “the singing bird will come.”
From Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Georgia, Patrick H. O’Brien reacts to an earlier Inquirer column (“Reading beyond Labels”) that reported: A US Food and Drug Administration study, on the military’s $1-billion medical stockpile, found drugs remained effective even 15 years beyond expiry dates.
(I’m) a US pharmacist who worked with eight medical / surgical missions to the Philippines,” O’Brien emailed. “Two were to Tagbilaran City in 1992 and 1994. And I applaud the common sense and non-political approach to the issue of expiration dating on medications in this unbiased column.
“As with most things, expiration dates are simply guidelines to be used. Medications are more affected by storage conditions than by a simple date. How many of us have gotten relief from a headache from a Tylenol that passed its expiration date? How many of us actually look?”
“The well intentioned Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) advises that medicines, imported by foreign medical missions, must have at least a one year expiration date. That may be appropriate for international pharmaceutical companies’ imports. But it puts an enormous burden on medical mission donations. They receive most of their donated drugs with a short expiration date of two to six months. How can I request donations, and then demand a one year expiration date?
“Our mission group will leave for a surgical mission to Roxas City. We accumulated medicines that are not expired but lack BFAD’s one year required dating. Worse, efforts to contact BFAD to arrange an inspection, by e-mail, regular mail and phone, all went unanswered. Maybe they’re busy dreaming up other rules?
From Las Vegas, Nevada, Bunny Arville emailed: A recent lead story, on TV Patrol newscast on Filipino Channel, was a beauty pageant that shocked: a beauty pageant of grandmothers or Lolas in a province.
A few did not apparently have bathing suits. So, they wore skimpy materials that seemed, from my vantage point, like underwear. Many in the audience were seen ridiculing this spectacle. “It was despicable beyond belief. It certainly didn’t speak well for those responsible for this project. But then, isn’t ratings (translation: money) always the deciding factor in lousy decisions?”
”In Pilipino culture, calling someone ‘Lola’ is a sign of respect — unlike the Western world that holds getting old is a negative thing. Age comes with honor in our culture. Our grandmothers are those who toiled and loved us. They deserve better.
“In TV, the line between news and entertainment has long vanished. News isentertainment and the death of Anna Nicole Smith (or Kris Aquino’s heartbreak?) Is more entertaining maybe a higher IQ is better than a bigger bosom. To idolize people who use cleavage, as a tool to get ahead in life, is really sick.”
From Elizabeth, New Jersey, Dr Jose Chua writes: “I read the Inquirer column “Mixed Bag”. Here is my experience: I left the Philippines in 1974 as a 27-year old youngster. Now, I’m almost 60. And it is not yet possible for me to return or retire. I’m still doing everything to ensure my family’s welfare. “I am a doctor. I enjoy financial stability. However, my nephews are already college graduates. Yet, they can not support their families, even if they have jobs. So, they still get a subsidy from me.
Probably I am an enabler. But they’re still hard-up. “That was the same plight I found myself in then. At that time, I was already a physician. In addition, I taught in the medical school of a major Manila university. Yet, my income then could hardly support my family. Is there any chance the Philippines will improve?
THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION, Asia America Initiative, based in Washington, D.C. and the Philippines, will bring 25 million pesos [$500,000] of vital medicines to the Integrated Provincial Hospital in Jolo as part of the ongoing Development for Peace Program on the southern Sulu Archipelago, the Asian Journal said.
The medicines, donated by US-based MedPharm, Inc. are to be distributed starting March. The shipment includes a broad spectrum of vital antibiotics, burn ointments, oral re-hydration salts, and anti-parasitic medicines for 50,000 elementary and preschool children.
The medical support is an ongoing component of the DPIS, which was founded in 2002 by Albert Santoli in partnership with the governments of the Philippines and local social, religious and educational leaders.
The program is credited with reducing violence and furthering the peace process in Jolo and surrounding communities by integrating health, education and livelihood efforts as a means of building Hope.
During the past four years, AAI has delivered more than 150 million pesos [$3.5 million] worth of medical supplies to Sulu and for emergency relief to populations affected by war in Maguindanao province on the main island of Mindanao. “Development for Peace has been a true partnership between the local community in Sulu and Asia America Initiative,” said AAI Director Albert Santoli.
“Our Philippine staffs, Muslims and Christians, have proven the power of people of different cultures, religions and languages working together in common humanity to build bonds of trust and friendship,” he said.
DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Feb) – The Supreme Court has started selecting the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in the Philippines that will hear and decide pending murder cases involving extra-judicial and political killings in the country.
SC administrator Christopher Lock issued Order 14-0755 compelling courtrooms in the country to inform the High Court on the pending charges involving extra-judicial and political killings.
Lock said they will select which courtroom will handle cases involving extra-judicial and political killings based on the data to be provided by these RTC branches.
The administrator gave the judges in the country until Thursday to send the information needed by the High Tribunal.
Militant groups said more than 800 mostly political activists were killed since 2001 and they accused government soldiers as behind most of these murders. The Armed Forces of the Philippines denied the accusations. (Romy Bwaga)